Oscillons from the Anti-Sun (Too Pure)

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With nine proper albums and countless EPs, singles, tour-only seven-inches and compilations, Stereolab has long been a collector's wet dream (Mon Dieu! Check out the gatefold edition of Emperor Tomato Ketchup with the gold-sparkle vinyl!). Casual fans, however, have been left with an incomplete picture of the band's oft-changing style. While Elektra Records has diligently released one new 'lab record every two years or so, the band has used its own Duophonic imprint to toy with new ideas or sonic tangents. Salvation comes in the form of this three-CD/one-DVD box set, which collects eight years' worth of EPs alongside rare and unreleased material.

Oscillons from the Anti-Sun works not only as an odds-and-ends repository but also as a kind of greatest-hits package for a band with no actual hits. Lots of fan favorites are here, from the jazzy, infectious "The Free Design" to the hazy, droning "Jenny Ondioline" (two versions of which are included in this set). Of course, the hard-to-find gems make the package worthwhile; the opener "Flourescences" is worth the price of admission alone. The only nit-picky frustration comes with the set's sequencing: The tracks are not arranged in any chronological or stylistic order, and trainspotters will be left wondering about the origins of many of these songs. This seems to be a purposeful cheat; the result of juxtaposing differing moods (dream-pop alongside Moog explorations; organ drone alongside flittering micro-beats) proves that Stereolab can regularly shed its skin and still be the same animal. Longtime fans will enjoy swimming through this set; neophytes will be rewarded for taking the plunge.

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